How giving a little, can gain you a lot!

I have been chatting to my husband about my blog and the different topics that I have been covering. He mentioned a case on a forum that he frequents which I thought was a really interesting way to target your “target audience”, talking to them directly – therefore not wasting money talking to everyone else as well – spend a little of your own money, but get a big reward for it! So I decided for my next blog I would investigate the use of the social media tool of forums for businesses!

The case of the motorcycle tyre

The general synopsis of this story is that the national distributor for a type of motorcycle tyre had a new model of tyre that had just come on the market and become available for distribution. But how to advertise and make the motorcycling community aware of this new model? They went direct to their target audiences forum and posted a competition. They asked the forum users to vote for one member from the North Island and one member from the South Island to each receive a free set of the new model of tyre for their bikes. The only provision was that the member had to place feedback/review the tyres on the forum for the other members to read about their experiences every 500-1000 kms. 

The initial competition had almost 4,000 views, and the resultant forums started by the winners had roughly 8,000-10,000 views between the two forums! The coverage that this competition created for the distributor was incredible! They were able to promote a new product direct to their target audience on the most prominent motorcycle forum in the country, it cost them two sets of tyres and just the time for someone to set up and monitor the competition. It doesn’t get much more cost effective than that!

The results? They ended up selling MANY sets of tyres. Why? Because they had introduced the product in a way that had consumers reviewing the product direct to their peers. Peer review adds a huge amount of weight to the buying power of the product, especially in the arena of forums. 

Forums are basically small communities where people with similar interests can discuss news, events, things that happen in their lives or just (as one of the topic headings in my husbands forum says) “rant or rave” about life in general. I say similar interests, because a person with interests in scrapbooking, who wants to discuss with other scrapbookers about scrapbooking, would not necessarily frequent a motorcycle forum for such conversations….  Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that you can’t like scrapbooking and motorcycles…. but you get what I mean…… 

So in this way, the use of their target markets forum to directly get in touch with their customers and ensure that they got to know about the new product (everyone loves to get something for free… so a great way to get attention) and had a fair review of the product directly to these customers from two of their own members meant that this was (in my opinion) a very smart way to advertise yourself. 

Just in case you were wondering how I knew that there were many sets of tyres sold as a result of this competition…. the review forums- after the first initial few reviews – ended up turning into a discussion forum with others that had bought the tyres themselves, these buyers added their own reviews to that of the winners of the competitions. Which only added to the exposure and popularity of the new model of tyre.

But how can I use this concept with my own little company? 

Win a free makeover/outfit?

As I already have a Facebook page for my fashion business I thought it might be best to look at a way that I could use the above concept to help grow our likes and get people interested in our products. 

I had already thought that I might run one of those “like us and share our picture before the end of June” competitions and “go into the draw to win free shipping” or “go in the draw for a $20 gift voucher”. But this idea of giving product away and asking for customer reviews seems like an awesome idea! 

So what can I give away to a lucky customer? Clothes! And what does every women want – a makeover! So here came my idea of asking customers to nominate a friend for a makeover/new outfit, and allowing our fans to vote for which lucky person receives the new outfit. As we stock clothes for sizes ranging from a NZ size 6-30 we can outfit a lucky lady what ever size she is. I would also request the winner post a picture of themselves in their new outfit on our facebook page just to cap it off!

I think the main concept when trying to promote your business or product is to go to the target audience, and I believe that my target audience frequents Facebook, and LOVES competitions where you can win free things. The other concept here is customer participation. Just having a competition where customers need to ‘like’ and ‘share’ on Facebook doesn’t draw in their interest, they remember you for the time it takes to like you and share your picture, and that’s it! However being able to nominate someone to win something, and then being able to vote on the finalists and possibly the winner maintains interest!

Can I use that image on my blog or company’s Facebook page?

My next quandary which came about over drinks with one of my best friends last week (we left the husbands at home with the kids! Yay!)  –who happens to own her own business and has just started using Facebook, so a good person to bounce ideas off – is regarding the use of images on our Facebook pages, and in my case also my blog. 

An embarrassing fact…..

As mentioned in my “about me” page I’m the sales manager for an internet based company selling overruns and cancelled stock from our main fashion manufacturing company (which I am one of the accountants for!). I started a Facebook page when I initially set up the company and here’s the embarrassing thing…..  in the last 6 months I am now up to 18 likes…. and to be fair, 1 of them is me…. 4 of them are probably my family/friends, and another 4-5 are staff from our main company and my assistant who now does the main day to day dispatch work for this little company….. so we haven’t gone so well on the likes thing. However the sales has been ok, we’ve sold over 1000 garments in the last 6 months, which is around 40 garments per week on average, however I would like to see this average over 100 – which we did do some weeks, but I would like to see this consistently happen.  Part of my plan for doing this paper (besides going towards finally finishing my degree after starting it in 2008!) was to help me better understand what I needed to do to make us stand out, gain a larger customer base and basically run more efficiently using Social Media as the main tool. 

My idea – that wasn’t probably such a good idea

Whilst talking to my girlfriend over said drink(s) I told her that I really liked what you see in women’s magazines where they will show a celebrity or a model wearing an outfit and then tell you how you can “recreate” that look, and I thought maybe I could start doing something like that with our clothes, however the idea was to use an image of a celebrity or another fashion retailers lookbook like image. Now I knew right away that another fashion retailers image was going to be a no go. Initially the thought runs through you head saying I am just a little tiny company at the end of the world compared to them and are not actually going to be taking any of their customers away as most of my customers seem to be farmers wives who live away from shops and who buy their clothes online. But then I started thinking of copyrights, intellectual property rights etc. 

Some interesting reading

So where do I go from here…. RESEARCH! I used my friend Google and searched about the legality of using images on Facebook. I found some interesting publications on how to use images from facebook, how fashion retailers should use social media and also copyright infringement. What did I learn? Basically to be careful! One idea that I got from an article regarding fashion retailers using social media was to use staff members wearing our clothes to make our own lookbooks on Facebook. Another from two articles -one about journalists using social media images and another about copyright infringement  gave me the idea to look for creative commons images on flicker etc. where the owners of the images give you the right to use images with certain restrictions (usually to link it back to them, or name them as the owner of the photo). Which I think  might be a good option for me when looking for celebrity photos. 

The worry for this assignment

I think one thing I have struggled with in regards to my blog is adding photos and images etc throughout the blog to try and make it interesting. The readings we have done on good blogs have shown lots of images on the blogs as a good layout, and I have looked at some of my classmates blogs and seen after every paragraph there is an image. However the readings mentioned above talk about how the everyday blogger normally doesn’t realise that they are infringing copyright by using those images on their blogs! I think part of my struggle with this is that it just isn’t me to put a random photo/image of something that slightly works with what I have said, even if it is just an expression. So I have struggled with the need to look at this as an assignment, where I will probably get better marks if I have used many images, but also as a blog where it is an expression of what I have to say, which if I am saying it doesn’t have a lot of random images attached. 

Where do I go from here……

From here, I will start looking into creative commons images available so that I can start creating lookbooks based on images of celebrities wearing outfits similar to those that we are selling ourselves. I think I will also look into the idea of liking other fashion designers facebook pages and share some of their images just to show that we are following then latest trends etc. 

Phew! There is a lot to think about when promoting your company through social media and the hard thing for a little 2-man-band like my own is being able to create the images to appeal to peoples senses whilst either sticking to a very small budget or not “stealing” other peoples images to use as my own! There is lots still to learn and investigate!